Making Clients out of Citizens: Deconstructing women's empowerment and humanitarianism in post-conflict interventions.

Palsgrave Macmillan
Publication Type:
Rethinking Transitional Gender Justice. Transformative Approaches in Post-Conflict Settings, 2019, pp. 53-76
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Post-conflict interventions are dominated by legal, security and development discourses. There is an emerging standardised ‘set’ of international responses to conflict. Many high-status interventions deal primarily with elites from within conflict communities and seek to rebuild on a western neoliberal democratic model with little accommodation of local practices or involvement of those most adversely impacted by the conflict. This model often reinforces pre-existing structural inequalities and further privileges those most able to access power, and further marginalises those with least access to political, economic and cultural power. Meanwhile, non-governmental organisation (NGO) development interventions are fraught with tensions, often emerging from and operating within colonial charitable paradigms which arguably paradoxically reinforce dependency and powerlessness. In this chapter, we draw on fieldwork conducted with women affected by violence in Kenya, eastern DRC and northern Uganda to examine the ways in which a range of transitional justice mechanisms operate. In particular, we explore the effects of such interventions on women’s agency and their self-identification as citizens. We question whether large-scale NGO service provision might be inadvertently distancing women from their own resourcefulness and agency, and shifting women’s identities away from citizenship and towards the more passive role of ‘client’
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